UCOL Te Pūkenga kaimahi (staff) and ākonga (learners) have been using their skills to support Manawatū Youth Theatre’s (MYTH) production of Moana JR.
Moana JR is a 60-minute stage adaptation of Disney's hit film Moana.
UCOL Te Pūkenga Music Lecturers Graham Johnston and Kane Parsons sit on the MYTH Trust Board. Parsons is directing Moana JR, while Johnston is musical director.
Johnston says UCOL Te Pūkenga has shown amazing support for the production, with different departments lending their skills.
"The most important thing to us for this show is being authentic to Pasifika culture, so UCOL's Raukura – Māori and Pasifika Pastoral Care – team was our first point of call. Head of Marketing and Brand Tessa Lyons has been instrumental in connecting MYTH with UCOL departments. Construction staff and students have been building our prop vaka, and creative media students have helped with promotion and part of the set. It has been a great team effort."
Construction Lecturer Anton William led the building of the prop vaka (boat), which plays a key part in the story. It has been a particularly special project for William, whose father worked as a boat builder in Rarotonga.
"My siblings and I worked with Dad when we were kids. Everything was done the traditional way, so quite different to how we are building this vaka. We didn't have nails or screws. We didn't have a chainsaw, we just carved the vaka from a log. It was hard work"
"Building this vaka brings back memories of me and the old man chipping away at a log and making ropes out of coconut husks. Keeping that family tradition going while also benefitting others is why I put my hand up for this project."
The construction teaching team and students helped with the vaka and it has proven to be a useful teaching tool. While they used modern construction techniques, the team tried to keep it as traditional as possible by using logs from a beach.
The UCOL Raukura team helped translate the Moana JR audition posters into Māori, Samoan, and Tongan.
Last year, then-student Keri Connelly designed the posters for the show and helped with social media promotion. Current creative media student Connor Watson has assisted with poster design work this year.
Creative media students Moana Mar'e and Emma McNaughten have designed four-metre high backlit panels featuring Pasifika designs. These panels will be placed on stage and change colours depending on the scenes.
Moana JR is the biggest show MYTH has done to date, with a cast of 70 local performers aged from 10 to 18, and a budget of $90,000. It is also the first show MYTH will run at the 1394-seat Regent on Broadway – it normally runs shows at the 200-seat Globe Theatre.
Moana JR is on at the Regent on Broadway from 13 April to 15 April, with four shows. Get your tickets from Ticketek.